Europe 2014 – Amsterdam – Alone Again, Naturally

Timeline: August 9th – 15th

Editors Note: The ride we did the day Beverly was in Copenhagen was not to Marken, but around the neighborhood, about 12 miles round trip. It gave us a good grounding regarding what was near Vliegenbos and provided just the right amount of exercise to fuel a good evening with Bev later that night.

We dropped Bev off at Schiphol Saturday morning sending her home to Kansas a seasoned world traveler. On the way back to camp the GPS took us on a different route than on the way out (why it changed the route we still don’t know) and it ended up sending us deep into the heart of Amsterdam proper. Fortuitously it led us to a suburb of nice shops, one of which was for bicycles.

The shop hadn’t opened yet but the owner was putting bikes outside for display and so agreed to sell us a couple of much needed inner tubes, replacing the many we’d had to dispose of earlier in the trip. Fortunately, our flat tire karma had changed and flats now came at more agreeable, if they can be said to be agreeable, pace.

We made our way north through town, traffic quiet on this Saturday morning and crossed under the het IJ using the tunnel our bus from camp would take to the train station. Using the GPS we were on a mission to find a car wash in order to give the Toyota something it desperately needed, a full wash and vacuum. Constantly parked outdoors in campgrounds, forced to accommodate two or more people spending long periods of time in it, the time was nigh.

We found a well equipped self-service wash at a Shell station not far from camp and spent a good hour restoring order and cleanliness to our faithful companion. Now we could get on with the rest of our day. We returned to camp and spent the rest of the day relaxing, our first opportunity in a couple of weeks. We planned to ride our bikes into Amsterdam the next day and with that in mind, prepared to go into town for our much-anticipated rendezvous with Kantjil En De Tijger for a rijstaffel.

 

Kantjil De En Tijger

Kantjil De En Tijger

In 1984 Joanna and I enjoyed a multi-course ristaffel on the Dam Rak and wanted to repeat that experience. We’d thought we do it in 2007, but having a third person along who probably wouldn’t have participated put a damper on the idea; this would be our chance. The place we’d gone to in 1984 was long gone and so we returned to Kantjil En De Tilger, recommended by Steves and where we’d gone with Doug.

Without as many servings as we recalled from 1984 (then it seemed like the small plates just kept coming, wave after wave of flavor) it is hard to compare but we did receive a one each of a pork, chicken and beef dish along accompanied by 7-8 side dishes including yellow rice. It was all good and just the right amount of food for the both of us. Maybe less is better.

The next morning, Sunday we rode our bikes into Amsterdam; a ride we’d been anticipating for many years. What would it be like on your own bike in this town owned by cyclists? We were itching to find out. I’m not kidding. Bicyclists rule the road in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam. If you’ve ever been to a bike centric town or location, let’s say UC Santa Barbara or UC Davis you’ll know what I mean. In all of these cases, if you unthinkingly cross a bike path without looking you put your life at risk.

Bike Lane

Bike Lane

It was a cold and overcast morning with the threat of rain. We rode out of Vliegenbos and down Meeuwenlaan in the direction of the harbor. Amsterdam operates three free ferries from the north side of town to the Central Train Station. Along with a crowd of other cyclists we boarded and within a few minutes found ourselves disembarking on the other side.

Ferry Back to Amsterdam Noord

Ferry Back to Amsterdam Noord

What would follow was a couple of entertaining and exhilarating hours on our bikes. We did some exploration (found the library, more on that later), went west along the waterfront and then down Prinsengracht, winding our way to the Museum Quad and its nearby entrance to Vondelpark. The largest in Amsterdam and like all great urban parks, it is a special place where you touch a bit of nature in a sea of concrete and brick, find a quiet space if you need it, and/or find some entertainment that allows you to take a break from a hectic life.

Vondel Cyclists

We stopped for a coffee to go as the rain started to come down, but fortunately not that hard. With wet on the horizon, we drained the drink and worked our way back to camp without much delay. Amsterdam’s well laid out bike lanes and comprehensive signage (more on this later as we cycle hither and non) made it pretty easy, no need for a map or much paranoia about out of control drivers.

Bike Signage

Bike Signage

Given the inconsistent and generally poor quality of the Wi-Fi at Vliegenbos, we were seeking a more reliable supplier of connectivity. The Amsterdam public library system reasonably priced access and so after cleaning up from our ride we drove the car down to the bike ferry to ride over to Central Terminal for a short walk to the main branch of the Library.

Central Library Branch in Distance

Central Library Branch in Distance

Parking near the ferry is limited to two and a half hours so we were on a mission. The library indeed had good access and we would use that resource a number of times during our stay. We finished up work on the computers, packed up and rode the ferry back to the car, stopping at the Dirk’s market for dinner ingredients.

It had been a good couple of days as we made the transition to just the two of us traveling. It’s a bit jarring at first; you get used to that other voice and the different balance they bring to the day-to-day of the trip. Soon though the rhythm you’ve established together reasserts itself and life in camp resumes its flow.

We love to eat out and yet, that meal in camp, an inexpensive bottle of wine lubricating the gears, evolves from a simple act of preparation into the constant that keeps you grounded. Often its just camp food, sustenance and nothing more; but every once in a while it’s a meal you savor, that elusive combination of time, place, and flavor.  It was good to be back to eating in camp, a little touch of home in a far away place.

 

Vondelpark Vagrant

Vondelpark Vagrant

Links

Het IJ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IJ_(Amsterdam)

Rijstaffel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rijsttafel

Kantjil En De Tijger: http://www.kantjil.nl/

Amsterdam Bike Ferries: http://www.amsterdam.info/transport/bikes/

Vondelpark: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vondelpark

 

Amsterdam Public Library: http://www.oba.nl/oba/english.html

 

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